DESCRIPTION: Army Wives tells the story of four women and one man who are brought together by their common bond they all have enlisted spouses. They form an unlikely alliance as they help one another through the challenges, tragedies, and struggles of army life. END Lifetime's spectacularly successful first original series, Army Wives
, hit a home run out of the gate. By focusing on those "keeping the home fires burning" and largely ignoring politics, the series appeals to fans of great drama all over the political spectrum. The Season One boxed set shows a key reason for its strength: the first-rate cast, led by Catherine Bell (JAG
) as Denise and Kim Delaney (NYPD Blue
) as Claudia, but also featuring the seasoned TV actress Wendy Davis (Joan) and plucky newcomer Sally Pressman (Roxy). (There's also one prominent Army husband, Claudia's husband Roland, played by the handsome Sterling K. Brown.) The chemistry among these women, living together at an Army base while most of their husbands are off at war--or helping to orchestrate the battles afar--is as undeniable as in any great TV ensemble, reminiscent of the early days of ER
. This territory has been for some reason largely unexplored by Hollywood, but what a rich territory it is: Americans may exhort "Support our troops," but the ones who do that day in and day out, on a deep emotional level, are the troops' families. In one moving mid-season scene, Claudia gives a speech, exclaiming, "We serve too!" which is no less moving for being obvious.
The series also doesn't stint on its visuals and sets. Shot on location in South Carolina, using a variety of vacant military bases and stately historic homes, Army Wives has a richness, a depth rarely seen on TV. The optional commentary, by the episode's director and its visual effects director, helps the viewer appreciate the cinematic techniques employed in the shots--lingering tracking shots, for example, and fewer cuts back and forth. But Army Wives is not without humor. When Roxy overhears a conversation in a ladies' room about one wife's possibly being beaten, she announces for the full room to hear: "He hits you once, hit him back. Hits you again, shoot him in the b--ls!" Cut to closed stall, where a couple has been trying to have a secret tryst, stifling laughter. The laughs leaven the tears, but the drama of the series overall is always first-rate --A.T. Hurley